Franchise Buying Guide

Coming of Age

Americans are hitting 50 and finding they're anything but over the hill. These entrepreneurs prove it's never too late to buy a franchise.
Presented by Guidant Financial
Guidant Financial specializes in helping entrepreneurs purchase new franchises using their retirement funds.

Don't assume 50-year-olds are past their prime-many are finding that the years after 50 are a perfect time to start a business, and buying a franchise is a great way to do that. Whether motivated by personal desire or out of financial necessity, these ambitious individuals are pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors in every imaginable field. Here's a look at several late-blooming entrepreneurs who purchased a franchise after age 50.

A New Beginning

Today's older population is healthy and active-Worldhealth.net reported that 7.5 million Americans 55 and older belonged to gyms in 2002, compared with 1.5 million in 1987. These older Americans have both the desire and the ability to stay in the work force well past the age of 50. In a recent poll from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, retirees were more interested in an active life, which involved working, than their parents' generation.

For aging individuals seeking new work options, franchising is an appealing choice. "Folks in their 50s are energetic," says David Handler, senior vice president of the International Center for Entrepreneurial Development, a Cypress, Texas-based holding company for nine franchise brands. "They've perhaps lived the corporate life, and they're ready to try it on their own."

Dan and Mary Ann Jones represent this growing population of older franchisees. After giving retirement a try for a couple of years, they came to the conclusion that it was not all it was cracked up to be. "We were doing nothing, playing golf and having fun," says Dan, 58, who left his corporate job at an insurance corporation to see if the grass was greener on the other side. "We decided we needed to do something else, because we were getting bored."

The Joneses spent nearly a year researching franchise opportunities before selecting Kwik Kopy Business Center, which provides printing, copying, packing and shipping services. They had both worked in upper level management jobs and felt a franchise like Kwik Kopy would allow them to use the skills they had acquired from a lifetime of work in the corporate world. "We've both been in high-paying jobs and under tremendous amounts of stress," says Dan. "We had come to a point in our lives where we wanted to have fun and build something."

Since opening their franchise in Temple, Texas, in July 2003, the Joneses have been busy, devoting as much as 70 hours per week to the business. Still, their franchise has granted them a newfound freedom they hadn't known in the corporate world-the freedom to set their own schedules. They have also acquired skills such as doing the payroll and even using the copy machine-duties they never had to learn before. Most important, having a franchise has breathed new meaning into their lives. Says Mary Ann, 55, "It's just like having grandchildren."

Layoff to Startup

Marc Weinberg turned to franchising when Prudential downsized and he was laid off after 23 years as a corporate employee. Weinberg walked away with enough money to retire comfortably, but after six months, he was ready to start working again. Though plenty of opportunities were available in the corporate world, he didn't want to follow that same path. He also had no desire to start his own business. "I didn't want to start my own company from scratch," he says, "because I'm the type of person who would work myself to death."

So instead, at the ripe age of 50, Weinberg hit the bars. He purchased a Bevinco franchise in Stanholdt, New Jersey, and started getting paid to keep bar and restaurant staffs accountable for the products used and the cash received. Now, eight years later, he is taking things relatively easy-working about 30 hours a week and bringing in about $100,000 a year. He also works with the franchisor to assist other franchisees. And he still has time for his favorite hobby: racing his powerboat.

For Weinberg, getting laid off wasn't devastating; instead, it was a golden opportunity to fulfill a longtime dream of running his own franchise. "[Owning a franchise] feels terrific," he says. "I get to reap the rewards of my own work directly instead of having to contribute them all to the company."

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This article was originally published in the August 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Coming of Age.

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